Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Over 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from some kind of hair loss.

     Hair loss can come from any number of different sources. Your genetic makeup, the medicine you take, even having a child can cause you to suffer from hair loss!
     The most common form of hair loss is called androgenic alopecia, more commonly known as male or female pattern baldness. This type of hair loss makes up the vast majority of hair loss cases in the U.S.
     Male pattern baldness typically begins with a receding hairline that creates an “M”-shaped pattern. Eventually that “M” may become a “U” that covers just the back and sides of the head.
     Female pattern baldness typically expresses itself differently than male pattern baldness. Instead of seeing a receding hairline, most women who suffer from female pattern baldness experience a more generalized thinning of the hair that begins in the center of the scalp and may slowly spread outward.

     The main culprit for androgenic alopecia is known as DHT. DHT is a by-product of the hormone testosterone. Certain hair follicles that are sensitive to DHT will begin to shrink when they are exposed to it. Eventually the follicles will shrink so much that they will no longer grow hair at all.
     Another cause of hair loss is a stressful event such as childbirth, extreme weight loss, surgery, or serious illness. The hormones produced during these periods can cause hair to temporarily stop growing. Typically the body will revert to normal after the stress has ended, and the hair will return on its own.
     Some medicines and medical treatments can also lead to hair loss. Many of the drugs used to treat cancer will lead to temporary and sometimes permanent hair loss. Even some more common medications can cause temporary hair loss or trigger male or female pattern baldness. A list of some of these medications can be found at the American Hair Loss Association’s website.

     Currently there are only two FDA-approved treatments for hair loss. The first is called finasteride (brand name Proscar/Propecia). Finasteride is taken in pill form and works to slow down the process that converts testosterone into the follicle-shrinking DHT. The second treatment is called monoxidil (brand name Rogaine). This topical treatment is applied to the areas of hair loss and stimulates the hair follicles.
     Both of these medications are primarily used to slow the loss of hair. Sometimes new hair will grow when using these drugs, but not often.
     A third option available to people who suffer from hair loss is to have their hair transplanted. With this treatment, DHT-resistant follicles are transplanted from the sides or back of the head to areas where hair loss has occurred. These transplanted follicles should continue to grow hair after the procedure.
     Transplants are typically a more permanent solution than drugs, but the quality of the results may vary depending on the skill of the surgeon, which is why it is extremely important to do your research if you choose to go this route.

     Hair loss is often a battle that is fought over the course of a person’s lifetime. The good news is that new treatments are being discovered all the time.

     If you believe that you may be experiencing hair loss you should speak with your primary care physician or with your dermatologist.

By: Shawn McNally

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